Effective meeting management skills are not only for the board room

Effective meeting management skills are not just for the board room.  Everyone could benefit from these useful tips.  Check out a question that I recently received regarding chronic lateness.
Question: I had a potential roommate to interview.  I emailed him that I would be at the house until 11:45am and that I needed to leave for another appointment at that time.  He arrived by 11:40 and then I couldn’t find a good way to end the conversation.  He made me 30 minutes late for my next appointment.  This happens often to me.

Answer: It is hard to “cut-off” a conversation, especially if this person took time and effort to travel to your location and the goal of the meeting had not been completed. We often feel we’re being rude and not considerate to that person.  But when we’re delayed and making someone else late or wait on us, we’re also being rude and inconsiderate to the other person as well.

Here are some things that could have been done upfront to avoid being either to either.

1)      Use the buffer technique between appointments

You already had a previous scheduled appointment at 12:00pm.  You correctly noted that you need to leave the house by 11:45am.   But you also need some prep time like: going to the rest room before you leave, collecting your keys, books, notes before you leave, lock up before you leave, etc.

Adding a buffer around that appointment would have helped.  For instance, if you needed to be in the car at 11:45am, mentally end your previous activity by 11:30am.  This gives you the time you need to collect yourself and prepare for your leaving.   As you get better with this technique, the buffer time can be reduced or eliminated.

2)      Use the Timebox technique in the majority of your appointments and tasks

Allocate an amount of time that you are willing to give to this activity.   Try to move away from the mind-set “doing this task until it’s done/dead”.    Allocate your ROI (how much time you are willing to spend on it, before it loses its benefit).  Many tasks can be briefly covered initially, and then returned to later.   Decide how much time you actually need to spend “right now” on it.

Try to move away from “all or nothing” mind-set.  Split your tasks into mini-tasks or mini-time-block allocations.  Have a specific goal in mind for each mini-task.

3)      Be explicit and clear about your schedule

Once again, estimate how long it would take show and discuss the roommate situation.

For instance, if you estimate that the roommate tour would take 20-30 minutes, then your friend has to show up before 11:00am – in order to assure that you leave for your other appointment on time.  11:00am is the time you tell your visitor (not 11:45).

If you feel it will take 20 minutes to 30 minutes to tour the house and room, then figure out when the visitor should arrive  (in order to have the 30 minutes of discussion).  Publish your START TIME, not only your END TIME.

If you had explicitly told him to drop by before 11:00am – you-two would have the time to tour the place (your Start Time) and accomplish your other tasks.   Making him aware that you will need to end the meeting by 11:30am (which includes a buffer), because you have another appointment at that time (your end time), will also allow you to accomplish your other tasks.

4) Review the purpose and  ground rules before the meeting.

When he arrives, re-iterate the time schedule, so no one misunderstands.  If you run out of time, just schedule another time to continue (split into mini-tasks).   Make sure to put time/place to the meeting.

If you leave it open ended (I will be at the house until 11:45am) – he can arrive at 11:40 and still be within your timeframe.   This way – if you are explicit with the start time (when he should arrive in order to have the right amount of time), then IF HE DOES arrive at 11:40, he’s not surprised if you are gone – or on your way out.

5)      End-game on the meeting

If parties understand UP-FRONT, no one will be angry when you cut-off the conversation at the appropriate and published time

Make sure you schedule (in your calendar) any follow-up meeting or discussion.  It’s not sufficient to say “we’ll catch up later to continue this conversation”.  Just take a few extra moments to actually schedule the time and place.

Before your part, summarize what was accomplished in the meeting and any action items before you leave.  This could include:

  • next meeting time/place
  • any “action items” between meetings
  • review of what to bring to the next meeting.

Read my next blog on Quick Handy Tips to take to any meeting.  It’s in the form of a Cheat Sheet that you can print and take with you.


1 thought on “Effective meeting management skills are not only for the board room”

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    Timeless advice, Laura! Common sense, but certainly not common practice. Once again it’s the discipline to practice these incredibly valuable techniques that sets extraordinary professionals apart from the mediocre. Thanks for your post!

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